If you know that a hurricane will be barreling down on your home and you need to evacuate, what are the first things you will pack? If you are like most people, you will pack at least a few days worth of clothing for the family and, if you have time to think straight, any valuables that you do not want looted or damaged.

Will you grab your firearms? Florida has recently passed a new law that allows for gun owners without permits to carry their firearms with them as they flee their homes for safer ground. Lawmakers in the state did not want to see the same issues arise in Florida as did in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

As people were being evacuated during and after Katrina, police confiscated hundreds of guns. The guns were taken from the evacuees directly and from abandoned homes. While people weren’t necessarily charged criminally for possessing those weapons, they were held in possession of law enforcement for several years.

Firearms were only returned to their owners after a lawsuit was filed against the city by the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association.

Senator Jeremy Ring opposed the passage of the bill. In his eyes, the chaos that occurred in New Orleans is exactly why people should not be permitted to walk around the streets with weapons. “I don’t feel comfortable to have people running around with guns in a riotous situation.”

In typical circumstances, Floridians who have a weapon on or about their person without a legal concealed carry permit can be charged with a third-degree felony. Those arrested face up to five years in prison. The new law makes an exception for people carrying weapons while evacuating during a state of emergency as declared by the governor or local law enforcement. The exception is only good for 48 hours, but the governor can extend the time period.

Most people, according to Marion Hammer, a former NRA president, most people would not leave their firearms behind to be stolen or destroyed. The law, without the exception, makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens. The new provision is a win for gun rights supporters.

Unlike current bills that are asking for guns to be allowed in schools and on college and university campuses, this bill received very little opposition. The bill stopped in five committees, and no one from the public spoke against it. Lawmakers report receiving only a handful of emails from private citizens opposing the bill.

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